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STORIES

Our Mothers: Newark

Kristina, 33

Jeff Jr. , 6

Jay'dah, 11

"My biggest influence growing up was my grandmother, and later on I started to realize how much of an influence my mom was to me. It was tough for me growing up. My mom struggled with drug addiction. Her and my dad. They were there in the house, but they weren't there for us as much as they needed to be. 

Despite my parents' struggles, I had a pretty good childhood. My grandmother really stepped in and raised me. The only thing missing was that love and time from my mom. I wouldn't say my dad 'cause he took that extra time with us, but my mom would be the one to come and go. I'd see her either on my way to bed or when I was leaving out for school. Honestly, when I would leave school I would be proud to walk home with my dad but I would kinda' hide if I saw my mother because of her drug addiction, the way she dressed, and the people she associated herself with. It was always a question mark when it came to her. I was told how much she loved me but I never really seen it. I think i heard more 'I loves you's' as an adult, than I did as a child. Sometimes I felt it as a child but it was very rare. My grandmother is where I got my love from. There were nights I cried 'cause I wanted my mother. I didn't cry to my grandmother, I just cried alone. I didn't really process that until I became an adult with a family of my own.

Even though they struggled with addiction, my mother and father were best friends. She felt like he really loved her. When he died, she felt like she lost her best friend, so things got worse for her. She started using drugs even more. She was already using heroin, but then she started to use roxies, and she took depression pills and oxies on top of that. She was also diagnosed with cervical cancer right after my father passed away. A lot of what she was going through, as far as the drugs, came from what she was suffering from. You lost your husband to lung cancer, and now you find out that you have cancer, on top of her being physically abused as a child. I really didn't understand the depths of all of that until 2 years ago, right before she passed away. We sat down and had a conversation, and she pretty much told me everything that she went through in life. She wanted to tell me for a long time but because of our relationship, she thought that I wouldn't believe her. And that was true. I felt like my mother would say things sometimes to get people to feel sorry for her. But it clicked for me. I understood why she went through what she went through, and why she did what she did. Like, she dressed masculine because she was abused and she felt like if nobody found her attractive, then maybe she wouldn't be violated again. From talking to her, I realized that the drugs were to cure the pain; which ultimately didn't go away until she passed.

She was only 57 when she passed away. To this day I still feel like the little girl in me still misses her mother and we should have more time to build and create memories, but I'm happy for the ones we do have. I didn't know the amount of love that I had for my mother until I was losing her. Towards the end of her days I had to make a decision on her life. My brother is incarcerated. So, I had to make a decision to either let her live on life support and in pain, or to take her completely off medications and allow the suffering to stop. It was hard because I didn't have my immediate family around me. I had to make that decision on my own.

The last night I talked to my mother, she cried. I felt like she understood even though she wasn't able to speak. I told her 'I promised you that I was gonna' take care of you and I wouldn't leave your side. And I just need you to know that I'm okay if you're tired', and at that point she cried and I cried and she started talking, but she couldn't get the words out. It was just mumbles. After that, the doctors came and took her off the machine and she passed right there in front of me. It's tough, but I believe that's the exact way it was supposed to happen."

"I really didn't understand the magnitude of my relationship with my mother, in terms of how big her heart was. I am my mother. But I made a better life for myself, learning from her mistakes. I met a guy in high school who was my friend for the longest, up until I had my daughter. Later we had my son and got married. Everything my mother missed in her relationship wth my father, I made happen in my relationship. She had me and my brother, and then she got married to my father after he got sick. Not really because they loved each other, but so that she could have support after his passing. When they got married, it was nothing major. We were in regular clothes. When I got married, I was able to have that fairytale wedding. She was able to purchase that dress, and attend that wedding to give me away. She wasn't able to experience that, herself."

"When I got married, my mother was always talking about how beautiful I was. I was never used to that. I was used to all kinds of 'bitches' and 'sluts' growing up. Back then, I was like, 'Ma I'm a kid. How can you even call me these things? I didn't even do anything wrong.' But those words changed. She started to tell me things like, 'Thank you for always being a friend. That's what I needed, and thank you for being the best daughter. Thank you for helping me to enjoy my last days.' One thing I made sure I did when I had kids, was allowing them to spend unlimited amounts of time with her. I was able to allow her to be a grandmother and enjoy it. My kids were her world. It was like I made everything right when I had my family."

 

"My dad's health took a turn for the worst, when I was having my daughter. I felt like God knew he was taking something away from me, so he said 'Kristina, I'ma put something in your life to help and heal you.' And that was my daughter. I had my husband, but that didn't completely heal what I had been through, or what I was going through. My daughter was the one who helped me to heal. Even with my son, my mother passed 4 years after he was born. God was preparing me for what he knew was to come. He knew that my mother had a weakness and had struggles when it came to being a mother. He said 'I don't want you to have those struggles, so I'ma give you a second child.'"

"My favorite part about being a mother is hearing 'I love you,' and them giving me kisses. And being able to hold them when they're upset, wipe their tears, clean their boogers, and tell them that everything is gonna' be ok. The scariest part about being a mother is failing them by not giving them my all, everyday. Every single day. I want to be consistent in showing them the way. God is my guiding light and so for them, but I'm their guiding light in the physical form. I just hope my light doesn't go out. I don't want my time to run out, and I haven't prepared them to move on without me. That's the scariest part, and I didn't tap into that until after I had my son. I would constantly have dreams about time running out. It would bother me. Like, why do I keep having these dreams about time running out? Why now?  I just want to make sure that when my time comes, they will be okay, and sustain their values and morals and skills in the real world, amongst other people."

 

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"I want to show them that hard work does pay off and as long as you work hard you will be okay. It does pay off. Sometimes working hard you're gonna' be told no, and people won't be happy but you gotta' keep pushing. You gotta' keep pushing and you gotta do what's right. Have respect for yourself have respect for others, even when they don't have respect for you. And love people regardless. My children don't understand what hate is. Last year, my daughter had an experience where she was the only Black girl in her class. And she had to experience what it is to be a Black girl. To be teased and kinda' isolated because no one in the room looks like you. I'm still trying to figure out how to teach them about navigating that. I just want my children to be people of great character, so I don't really want them outside hanging with other random kids and being around just anybody. I'm not saying that them going outside and being around other children won't help to build that character, 'cause they do need social skills, but I need them to understand that certain things are not okay. There are things that your parents are not gonna' allow you to do, that you see other children doing. I want to keep them protected. Even if that means keeping them in the house and kinda' sheltering them a little bit. It might have some negative effects, but I'm looking at the bigger picture. I want them to have a childhood but I also want them to maintain the good character that they have. They're growing up in a dangerous society, and it is my duty to help prepare them for that."

 

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"I love being a Black mom. We're beautiful people and we have so many layers to us. There's no definition of a good Black mom, or woman for that matter, because we're all made up differently. What's good for another woman might not work me, but that doesn't mean I'm not a good woman. And vice-versa. I just think it's beautiful that we have so much variety to offer. For myself, that's being faithful to my husband. Loving and cherishing myself, and my kids. Pushing through all of my struggles, and dealing with death. Dealing with drug abuse from my parents, and my emotions and experiences who make up who I am."

 

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"A woman is someone of great character that is built from good and bad experiences. A woman is strength. To be a woman, especially a Black woman, is to push through everything that life throws at you. In order to survive as a Black woman, you have to have this type of strength. You always have to fight. In this world nothing was really designed for a woman. You gotta push past every obstacle in your way. There is no room to give up. There's room for error, but no room to give up."

"I work hard to be someone that they look up to. To leave a legacy of what family means and how it should be for them. I want them to know that family should always be important. Do all that you can to help and support them regardless. When it was all said and done, my mother loved me and I loved her, regardless of what happened in the past. You just gotta' love people. God designed your family the way he wanted to. You didn't choose it, but you only get one." 

 

 

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 JEAN MASSEROUX

HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER. PHOTOGRAPHER. FOUNDER OF @THEHUEMANJOURNAL.

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